June 5: Web-book chronicles history of digital literature

Grigar-80VANCOUVER, Wash. – A Web-book showing the history of electronic literature will launch online noon-2 p.m. Monday, June 1, with live tweeting and blogging by creators Dene Grigar, associate professor at Washington State University Vancouver, and Stuart Moulthrop, professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The public is invited to a launch party at 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 5, at Nouspace-Angst Gallery at 1015 Main St. Vancouver. Copies of the book will be on view.

Made for a wide array of digital devices, “Pathfinders: Documenting the Experience of Early Digital Literature,” is available free through the open-source platform Scalar at http://scalar.usc.edu/works/pathfinders.

The Web-book provides readers with access to four important computer-based works of literature that were among the first to be sold commercially in the U.S. but are now threatened by obsolescence.

All four are acclaimed works of fiction representing the cultural impact of digital technologies that resonate today in experimental writing, video games, cinema and virtual reality experiences.

“Pathfinders” captures demonstrations of the works performed by their authors on vintage computer systems. Readers will watch Judy Malloy walk through her database novel, “Uncle Roger,” originally published on the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link and considered by some the first example of social-media literature.

Readers will see a tour of “Uncle Buddy’s Phantom Funhouse,” a revolutionary hypermedia novel-in-a-box by John McDaid, and a demonstration of two classics in the early hypertext system Storyspace: Shelley Jackson’s “Patchwork Girl” and William Bly’s “We Descend.”

Extensive interviews with all four authors add an important dimension of oral history to the project.

“Pathfinders” features 173 screens of content, 53,857 words of text, 104 videos, 203 color photos and various audio files.

Its production was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.